While the head of the ECB and his assorted kitchen sinks scramble to explain how Diesel-BOOM was horribly misunderstood when saying that depositor impairment may and will be the template for future European bank "resolution" (as should have been the case from Day 1), the CEO of Italy's largest bank appears to have missed the memo. As Bloomberg reports, according to the chief executive Federico Ghizzoni, "uninsured deposits could be used in future bank failures provided global rulemakers agree on a common approach." Or failing that, because if Cyprus taught us anything is that Europe will never have a common approach on anything, just use deposits as impairable liabilities, period, once the day of reckoning for Non-Performing Loans comes and these are forced to be remarked to reality, just as happened in Cyprus. One can only hope that uninsured deposits do not represent a substantial portion of the bank's balance sheet because the CEO basically just told them they are next if when risk comes back to the Eurozone with a vengeance. Especially since as Mario Draghi was so helpful in pointing out, "there is no Plan B."
Cutting large deposits in failing banks, along with other liabilities such as bonds, to offset losses is acceptable as long as small savers’ funds remain protected, Ghizzoni told reporters in Vienna late yesterday. The European Union has to introduce identical rules in all of its member states and ideally those rules would be coordinated globally, he said.
In fact, to the Italian, deposit impairment is perfectly ok as long as "everyone does it" - in other words, if it does become the template the Dutch finance minister already said it is, then all is well.
Including deposits “is acceptable if it becomes a European solution,” said Ghizzoni, 57. “What we cannot accept is differentiation country by country inside the same area. I would strongly suggest to make this decision not only within Europe but within the Basel Committee, where all countries are represented. Otherwise we would open the market for arbitrage.”
Ghizzoni said deposits should only be included when bonds aren’t sufficient, and those below the guaranteed level of 100,000 euros should be off limits. While he would prefer not to touch them at all, including deposits in a global plan was a acceptable solution, he said.
“The deposit issue is very sensitive,” he said. “It will become part of the discussion for the bail-in instruments related to the resolution plans of banks. I hope it will be addressed carefully and with clarity.”
Which makes perfect sense: where will those "evil, tax-evading oligarchs" go if everyone in the world says that no uninsured deposits anywhere are safe any more.
Well, perhaps Singapore? Or the Caymans? Or Lichtenstein? Or Switzerland?
Yes, there are tax havens where the banking sector is not woefully insolvent, and the rich have ways of finding out where these places are. And remember: Italy does not have capital controls to prevent the outflow of deposits. At least not yet.
But what it also means is that for a bank like UniCredit with nearly €1 trillion in assets, the liability side of its balance sheet is about to get far smaller, forcing it to readjust its balance sheet i.e., pump more equity to offset the loss of unsecured funding liabilities. One wonders just how this will happen when no European bank has made any real profits in the past several years, as for raising equity capital... forget it.
More importantly, as the chart below shows, deposits just happen to be a primary source of funding for the Italian megabank. Perhaps trying to spook them is not the smartest idea, especially if UniCredit also plans on one day "resolving" its non-performing loans (15% of total assets? 20%? 25%? 30%?) and is forced to "impair" liabilities from most junior all the way to deposits (and higher).
Ghizzoni's conclusion is perfectly expected: allay any fears that the Monte Paschi specter of depositor outflows has shifted to UniCredit:
Ghizzoni said he had been “afraid” of his clients’ reaction to the measures in the Cyprus rescue and asked for monitoring of deposit flows in all 22 European countries -- stretching from Italy, Germany and Austria as far as Russia and Turkey -- where his Milan-based bank operates. It didn’t find any loss of deposits, he said.
“Really, we were afraid, we started to monitor on a daily basis the flow of deposits in different countries,” he said. “Maybe I’m disappointing you, but in reality we had no reaction so far from customers.”
Maybe the CEO should revisit this issue in a few days to a week, once the bank's clients are fully aware its CEO is perfectly happy to sacrifice the whales in order to preserve his bank's viability. Perhaps then customers will have a slightly different reaction...